New York is getting Complete Streets

Last week the New York State Legislature passed a bill that will help make our streets fairer, safer and better for everyone who uses them, including pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, children, and the elderly. The Complete Streets Act requires future transportation projects to be just that -- more complete.

So what exactly makes a street “complete?” Here’s what the National Complete Streets Coalition has to say:

There is no singular design prescription for Complete Streets; each one is unique and responds to its community context. A complete street may include: sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts, and more.

Implementing these improvements to our streets will help address critical safety and environmental issues. New York currently has the fourth highest death rate of pedestrians who are senior citizens, and 3,222 New Yorkers -- including more than 200 children -- were killed while walking between 2000 and 2009.

Ensuring that all people are able to walk and bike safely makes our communities better places to live and work. It helps make people healthier, by encouraging physical activity and reducing harmful air pollution from cars and trucks. It also makes roads safer for drivers and allows better transportation design.

And let’s not forget that biking and walking are zero-emission activities that can help greatly reduce a city’s carbon footprint.

The Complete Streets movement is growing strong across the country, with at least 25 states and hundreds of municipalities (including more than a dozen in New York State) adopting complete streets laws and policies. It is part of the broad advocacy effort among transportation groups to balance infrastructure investments to reflect the wants and needs of all users and shift the paradigm from more and bigger road construction projects (that often yield more traffic and more pollution) to better planned, and critical maintenance, projects.

As icing on the “complete streets” cake, the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst just completed a study showing bike and pedestrian transportation projects create more jobs than road-only projects.

This important bill got stuck in the Legislature last year, but with the great leadership of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and a broad coalition of dozens of health, environment, community, children and senior citizen groups, the bill made it through in the waning hours of this year’s legislative session.

We hope Governor Cuomo will sign this bill soon, and the state can start making its transportation projects safer and better for people and the environment.

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